Eva Maria Turcios of Alexandria, Va., honored by Children's Defense Fund for overcoming adversity

11:53 PM, Nov 15, 2012   |    comments
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WASHINGTON, D.C. (WUSA) -  Every once in a while you hear a story of a person who has overcome unthinkable adversity to rise above and soar. Thursday night, the Children's Defense Fund honored several such teens, one of whom is 17-year-old Eva maria Turcios.

It's not often video exists of the most terrifying night of your life, but for 17-year-old Eva Maria Turcios of Alexandria,, news cameras captured her turning point. In 2006, police say her dad attacked two friends with a machete. Then he went on the run.

Eva explains the impact. "That completely changed my life because my dad wasn't there anymore. The police were at our house constantly. Basically, I was forced to grow up, I couldn't be a kid anymore," she said.

Up until that point, Turcios had already had a rough childhood. "My dad was an alcoholic, and that affected the family, because he lost his job and he was abusive towards my mom and eventually towards me and my brothers and sisters."

After her dad left, her mom had to support four kids alone. Turcios was 11. The high school student remembers it as a tough time. "Not having enough to eat, not having a place to live, and not having support from other people," she said.

Eva practically raised her brothers and sisters. She went to school, she worked, and she maintained a 3.8 G.P.A. On Thursday night, the Children's Defense Fund awarded her a $10,000 scholarship, a laptop, and guidance through the college admissions process, along with nine other winners. The program is called "Beat the Odds." It was started in 1990 to reward young people who've "experienced significant hardship in their lives and supports and trains them to become future leaders in adulthood."

Eva says she's thankful for the scholarship and for the life she's lived. She said, "I don't regret having to face those obstacles because I actually feel lucky that it made me the person that I am now."

Turcios' dad has been in and out of her life. Last year, he was deported. Turcios says the scholarship has given her an opportunity to reflect. "All these years I've had kind of hate for him because of all he put us through, but I guess after winning this scholarship, I changed my way of thinking and found that I can't hate him because he's my dad and, he's not here, but I still have a lot of opportunity," she said.

Turcios is applying to colleges now. She wants to study science or medicine. And she says one day she wants to make sure her mom doesn't have to work anymore.

The event was hosted by CBS Evening News' Byron Pitts. The other 2012 Beat The Odds recipients are: Margaret Hobbins, Jennifer Jiminez, Ana Gloribel Pereira, and Kieu-thu Kim Tran.

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